I have been thinking… (What a surprise) I got up a few minutes ago to start the project of using my box of pressure (binder) clips that I have had in my office for a very long time. I bought them because I often have stacks of papers that are too large for the average paper clip, and yes, I have several sizes. I believe that, like a tool shed, an office should be stocked with all the proper things. That is to say, Everything.
But I am not writing about my office, I am thinking about something else. I am thinking about lost chances. I am thinking about missing the boat….
We all miss things from time to time. It is easy to look back and say we should have curved left instead of right… but I am talking about something lifelong. An example would be; what if Mozart, as a child, sat down at a piano only once. What would his life have been? I imagine that he would have longed to feel those keys again and that he would have tasted it and chewed on it for all of his life. He would have dreamed it, and as best he could, he would have created in his mind. He would have lived it each day, stretching his fingers to tickle cool keys that would never ring at his touch.
What would the world be like? I imagine the entire world would be different, although I am not suggesting that would be the case for me. I know that I am quite average and ordinary, and no matter what road I chose… I would still be just that. It is the way of the world, and it took me a long time to realize this; a long time to accept this.
I wanted desperately to BE someone and my parents told me and taught me that I could be anything and I believed them and for a long time I aspired. I worked hard and I took chances and made mistakes. I was not driven though, in the way folks like, say, Steve Jobs or Martha Stewart or Ben and Jerry. I have looked back at my life and wondered why I lacked that drive, but I understand now… just keep reading….
But like the scenario where Mozart never sits at the piano again, I have had a longing that began when I was seven years old. I loved the drums. I drummed on pots and pans, on boxes and buckets and footstools. Anything. I used wooden spoons or pencils or sticks from the woods and I sat in front of the TV or by the radio/phonograph and played. First it was Pete Fountain, The Big Bands, and all the music from the 40s and 50s that played daily in our home. Then, I discovered The Monkees, and rock and roll…
I remember sitting on the arm of the sofa, with an inverted bucket between my legs, just pounding away to any and every song. I loved it. So I asked for a drum…. I asked to play the drum in the elementary school band… The answer was always no. Girls do NOT play drums. (This was the 60s and I suppose at the time it was a valid argument….) I continued to ask throughout my childhood but the answer was always the same. I continued to make the best of it and drummed on everything else.
When high school came, my focus was different. My creative vent leaned strongly to art and I spent much of my time drawing, painting and riding my horse. I also spent a great deal of time cutting classes with my friends Patrick and Cheri, and smoking a huge amount of good 70s weed. (Don’t judge) So, while I still drummed on everything, getting a drum or set of drums was not on my mind as much. I was also having my first crush… A girl named Shelley… but that is whole ‘nuther story….
The next part, I don’t remember so clearly and I imagine the pot has something to do with that. I went off to college, and I think I purchased a drum set then, in Lancaster PA with part of my grant money. I hoped to learn to play, finally, and I set them up carefully…. A used, but like-new five piece set of Ludwig drums with a hi-hat and a crash cymbal. I played as I was able but school took a great deal of time, as did partying and learning about life. I was a generally shy, quiet, artsy girl who was incredibly naïve and sheltered; surrounded by so many new things in a world that was nothing like the one I was raised in. I quickly realized there was no room for drumming.
The drums were in the basement at my sister’s home in Lancaster PA. She lived on Pine Street, next to Franklin and Marshall College and the homes were the classic old row homes. Long… street long rows of attached two story homes that were slender from the road but deep. They were not small, only close and since our street was a mix of students and professors, any drumming I did was largely frowned upon. Most of the noisy fraternities and sororities were on the other side of the campus, and I did not attend this University. My school was in York which was close to an hour drive away. Time was at a premium, and my desire to be an excellent student surpassed my desire to play the drums. I was still trying to please good ole Mom and Pop.
So summer came and the semester ended and I packed up my stuff to go home to Florida. My room was waiting at my parents’ house and while they were surprised and supportive for a moment when I arrived and unloaded the drums, the sentiment changed quickly and the drums… well… they had to go. So I sold them and joined the Carnival instead…. I was not terribly upset about parting with the drums because I was having a blast and had jumped into another new world…. one of travel and wildly diverse people and ideas. After all, I could always find something to drum on, and I did.
So we fast forward to now. There is no need to fill in decades with stories of how my road went this way and that, how I tried many things, learned about life and love and right and wrong and sacrifice and priorities. I always drummed and always, ALWAYS felt like I was going to have drums…. one day. I dream about them and look at photographs on the internet. I look at “for sale” ads and imagine myself going to pick up my chosen kit, bringing it home and going to weekly lessons. I practice. I practice endlessly to make up for lost time.
Along the way time seemed endless and managed. I was unhurried because there were so many possibilities, so many days and months and years to fill. Then, I blinked and was 56 years old. The yearning and desire has never left me. Drums, since the beginning of my memory, were a calling and now I am on that slippery downhill slope that we face as we age but now time moves faster every year. I feel a sense of urgency about my life and things I want to do, but drums, they are not something I want to do; learning to play MY set of drums properly is something I MUST do.
Do you feel this way about something? Have you ever had a slow fire burning inside you that never let you be? I imagine that there are unanswered yearnings in all of us. Maybe we forget. Maybe we decide that our dreams are simply childish things and we put them on the shelf and once in awhile, take them down, dust them off and tell ourselves pretty stories to make it all seem reasonable that we gave ourselves away. It wasn’t. It isn’t.
For me, this calling found me at a very early age but it doesn’t happen this way for everyone. Some people discover theirs at different stages of their lives, some by chance, some by happenstance. Some, because they simply curved right, instead of left and bumped smack into the very thing they had been searching for. It is like going to the grocery store for ingredients to bake a cake, but not knowing that what you want is a cake. As you walk the aisles picking out the ingredients, you turn one more corner and what do you see right in front of you… a freaking CAKE! All at once, you realize that it is all you will ever do for the rest of your life. Like falling in love, only the gift you give is to yourself. Your true, authentic self…. And so you bake.
Today, I have made a decision. Today, rather than look at pictures and dream, rather than watch videos of others creating rhythm and sound and beauty, I will create the path that leads to my life long destination. I will save for, research for, watch for and ultimately purchase and bring home my drums because I must honor what has been living in me for my entire life. I must find out what it feels like to complete my most compelling desire. I am driven to do this one thing before I die.
Driven. I spoke of this several paragraphs ago, and as I thought about the drums and my dreams, I believe I understand why the drive to be so many other things was not quite right. Make no mistake, I did well enough at the things I endeavored, but I am talking about on the inside, the churning feeling… the constant whisper in my ear telling me that there was something else I was supposed to do. It was drums and it passed by me like a slow moving train, leaving me feeling as though everything else was second best. I had the ticket, but I never got on the train.
So… I asked you before and I ask again. Do you have this thing inside you? Is there something that has been knocking at your little door? Have you just let it be for years? For decades? Do you think about it, wondering all the while… what if…? I urge you to make room. Make room in your life for YOU. Whatever it is, you owe it to yourself to at least try before the calendar has no more pages to turn.
For me, it is a bass, snare, two mounted toms, a floor tom, hi-hat, crash, ride, crash/ride, splash and china (though the cymbals will not all come at once most likely because they are expensive) a throne, sticks, stands, hardware, storage containers and music stand…..
So I declare, here and now…. I will answer this calling and I am going to buy, trade for, beg, borrow or negotiate my way to a drum set that I will set up and play in my home. I will take lessons and learn and practice and one day, I hope that someone says to me, Barb, you did the right thing. You are a drummer.
I wish for you… to make this declaration should you feel a calling of your own. Answer it. Answer for you because not only will it enrich your life, by becoming complete on the inside, you will be a better person, happier with yourself, and will be a better person for all those around you. Now, isn’t that a good reason to begin a new life’s journey right now? No matter how young or old, no matter your health, there is that thing, that one thing that drives you. So make a note. Make several, make a stack and secure them with a great big paper clip so you won’t lose them, and don’t lose your way. Your spirit is out there waiting, and has been the entire time.
It has been an interesting year in many ways. How redundant for me to start that way. Every year is interesting and brings learning, loss, newness, hellos, epiphany and more. Death is on my mind right now because there is always so much of it. It is the only thing that is certain and we all share it, from the tiniest microorganism to the biggest forest to the longest living things… we all die.
On our farm we see it unexpectedly when a hawk comes hurling from the sky and flies away with a chicken in its claws, leaving a skewed pile of feathers as the only remains. We see it in our field, where the incessant rains have carried away our crops for the second year in a row. We see it in our lives too, with a startling phone call or a neighbor stopping by as they go by the house.
July begins with excitement. Summer is in full swing. Patriotism is winding up for the annual grand display with fireworks, grilled food, much flag waving and gratitude. Then it begins with a phone call and suddenly Candace has lost a brother and I a brother-in-law. Just a few days later and a friend I have known since I was a young teen has passed just as unexpectedly. He was part of my second family growing up and was the closest thing I could have had to a brother at that time. Even though I had not seen either of them in some time I am transported to times when we were younger, remembering times both good and bad. How did the time pass so quickly?
Time. Another phone call only days later. Our social circle is cracked to pieces as word spreads of the death of a friend. Young. Gentle. Caring. Surgery and recovery gone horribly, inexplicably wrong and a true light is snuffed out. The grief is palpable now. I can taste it and I am filled with sorrow and rage. How. Can. This. Happen.
I remember my 20s, 30s, 40s, and feeling like I had so much time. I was wrong.
Now it is September and my neighbor Bill and friend Ruth have both passed and I find myself in tears at random moments… when I am digging in the garden, or folding laundry. When the phone rings I cringe and wonder who else has passed, what more has gone wrong.
Death is not the only darkness… people disappear from out lives for many reasons and in many ways, some leaving me dumbfounded, some leaving me broken, all breaking a piece of me away to roll to a dusty corner. A loud voice tells me to flee, to hide, to keep all away, to build a wall to protect me from the pain of goodbye… from the pain of silence when the words don’t come and I am left with only questions.
Some days like today, the darkness is calling to me from my past, from moments in time that linger like flies over carrion. Today, when nothing makes sense and trust has a bitter taste that I spit out and grind into the dirt with worn wet sneakers. Where do we go when the darkness comes, when we feel that hand on our shoulder, know what it is, and not want to turn to see it. Where do we go when everything stops and all that is good and right and sure drains away like the blood drains, crimson and thick from a deep wound. When the dark comes calling, like fear, uncertainty, or a speeding train…. where do we go. Where do I go. What do I do now.